Hello, Rebecca. Tell me, what do you write? Why this in particular?
My first novel, Dear Jennifer is an epistolary novella. I love writing letters and I created characters that wrote to Jennifer throughout her life. The challenge, different from most letter books, is that I didn’t include any letters from Jennifer! Whatever you learn about the main character is from what others write to her. Other than a few short stories, Dear Jennifer marked my beginning as a serious writer, and I subsequently adapted it for the stage.
In my career I’ve written six novels, seven plays, and a number of short stories. Once I get an idea, the format, play or novel, is determined, not by me, but by the characters early on.
Do you have a particular routine?
I am a creature of habit, and it has served me well since leaving my past career in film restoration in Los Angeles. I keep a 4” x 8” reporter’s notepad by my computer and every night I write a “To Do” list for the next day. It’s pretty consistent. Monday: Submit. This reminder insures I get my work “out there.” Other mornings, nine to noon, are for writing. I don’t answer the phone or emails and if I’m not working on a big project (novel or play), I click on my “Non-memoir File” and choose from a list of past experiences. Whatever the topic, it’s always accompanied with a cup of tea and my dogs, Stevie and Zora, who position themselves at my feet when I say, “It’s time to go to work!”
When did you decide you could call yourself a writer? Do you do that in fact?
I struggled with calling myself a writer in the beginning. Would it be when I’m published? When I got paid? When I started teaching writing? I suppose having plays produced and hearing audiences applaud helped me over the hurdle of credibility. And, yes, I call myself a writer.
How supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you're doing?
I am very, very fortunate. My wife and I have been together for more than thirty years. Early on in our relationship, Kay went back to graduate school to become a Physician Assistant. I was working for SONY Pictures at the time, so it was my honor to support her career change. Years later, she had established her career, and I left the studio to write full time. Not only does Kay support my endeavors, but she stepped out of her comfort zone to play a role in a reading of my play, “Hennessey Street.” I know I am lucky and appreciate her support.
What are you most proud of in your writing?
I love when readers write me a note. I’ve been fortunate to write for newspapers and, for whatever reason, two columns in particular stand out. One, was an op ed about the importance of a handwritten note or card compared to a text or email. Many people wrote to me saying they forwarded that column to their children and grandchildren, which I thought was impactful. Two, a lengthy article I wrote for the paper ran on Father’s Day. I shared memories of life with my father which triggered emotions in readers that they shared with me. “Proud” may not be the correct word, but I appreciate the interaction of human emotions inspired by the written word.
How do you get on with editing and research?
I love editing and research, two very different processes!
For years I’ve been working on a play based on an actual event in 1904. Researching the daily lifestyles and the world events of that era was fun and vital for the characters to be believable.
As for editing? I tend to underwrite. Not like an insurance agent, but my first draft tends to be stark, so rewriting for me usually means adding more detail. After the 6th or 7th draft of a short story, for example, I’ll put it aside for a week or more. When I work on it after that, the fine tuning begins. I love everything about the process. Plus, when the occasion arises, I enjoy editing others’ work.
Zora Neal Hurston. Talk
about meeting challenges head on! When I feel discouraged or frustrated, I try
to imagine the courage and grit Zora encountered in getting her work published.
Plus, her characters are clearly developed and memorable.
Which writers have inspired you?